Editorial: Minorities help rural Minn. grow

Published 9:28 am Thursday, October 4, 2012

Willmar and other cities in rural Minnesota have been experiencing racial demographic changes over the past two decades.

As one of Minnesota’s micropolitan centers, Willmar has worked hard and been fairly successful in embracing the racial changes within its community.

Other areas in rural Minnesota are also experiencing this racial geography change. Across rural Minnesota, the aging white population is retiring and moving or dying, while new immigrants are moving in for jobs and bringing or having children.

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A U.S. Census report showed most of Minnesota’s 16 micropolitan areas with only slight population growth, but some with significant growth in minority populations.

The reality for much of rural Minnesota is that without the growth of minority populations, those regions would have seen population declines during the past decade.

Willmar is a good example. The Willmar micropolitan area’s total population increased from 41,203 in 2000 to 42,239 in 2010, an increase of 1,036 in 10 years. The Willmar area’s minority population during the same decade increased from 3,991 to 6,275.

The racial demographic change of rural Minnesota is not going away as rural jobs and good communities draw and keep minorities seeking economic opportunity.

Without this minority population growth, rural communities would have experienced overall population declines resulting in significant budget cuts for cities and school districts.

Decrying the minorities’ population change in your community or sticking your head in the sand wishing your community was like it was in the 1950s is rather pointless. And, in some cases, even racist.

Communities like Willmar should continue working to embrace the growing change of minorities and accept the new parts of our communities. Eventually, these new minority populations will mold right into our communities, just as the Irish, Norwegians, Swedes, Germans, Poles, Italians and others did during the 19th and 20th centuries.

— West Central Tribune, Sept. 29

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